parkinson's and wheelchair accomodations

I Want My Independence

Last updated: September 2022

As with most of us with Parkinson's disease, I want to be able to do as much as I possibly can for myself. It has taken me some time and several falls to accept that there are many things I will never be able to do again without help.

However I am becoming increasingly frustrated by finding so many places that claim to be handicap accessible and then find that they are not. That definitely keeps me from doing what I can.

Very few stores or restaurants have electric door openers and the doors open out. Therefore I can not get in with my electric wheelchair. Having to wait for someone to notice and come to my aid is demeaning and makes me feel helpless.

A lack of accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was intended to address the lack of accessibility for those individuals who are wheelchair-dependent as well as provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.1

I frequently find ramps from parking lots too steep or a long distance to have to manage in busy parking lots. Just recently, many of the handicapped parking spaces were moved farther away to make room for food pick up spots closer to the restaurants.

I question why someone picking up a meal should not be expected to be able to walk a little further rather than those of us who need a safer egress.

The lot is not well tended and dangerous in some places as I attempt to cross intersections. I always have to have someone to help me rather than being able to get there myself. This just makes me more dependent and feel incapable of taking care of myself as well as can be expected.

Trouble at a special event

If I am attending any special event or going somewhere new, I always contact the establishment in advance to ask if they are wheelchair accessible. Just recently a group of friends went to a wine tasting and I was assured it was wheelchair accessible.

The patio was definitely doable. However, imagine my surprise to learn the restroom was down a flight of stairs with no ramp. My husband had to push my chair through a rough gravel path and we had to enter through the basement.

Needless to say the restroom was not wheelchair friendly as the door opened out. There were no properly placed grab bars. I had to be physically lifted onto the commode. I expect to have to ask for help frequently, but I need to be able to perform personal tasks independently. What would someone without a caregiver have done?

Poorly designed spaces

I have found that there are very few facilities that are properly designed for wheelchair use. This is the case in doctors' offices as well as in many of the hospital facilities. The doors can be very heavy and always open out rather than being able to be pushed in, which I could do.

So often the soap dispenser is too high and there is no cut out to be able to access the sink. Towel dispensers are frequently unreachable. Therefore I always carry hand sanitizer wipes, although it would be better to use soap and water.

Needing help from others

This is usually what I encounter in restaurants as well. It is embarrassing for my husband to have to be sure the restroom is unoccupied and then stand guard after he has helped me as well as he can. He will always do whatever I need, but as an 82 year old gentleman he is hardly comfortable under the circumstances.

Often a woman will come into the restroom and will offer help but it can be difficult for me to accept the kindness of strangers under embarrassing situations.

When making reservations at restaurants I always let the staff know that I am in a wheelchair and most are very accommodating in placing me at a table where I am not in anyone’s way. Once in awhile that doesn’t happen and can make it awkward for the server or other patrons who may need to pass by.

Reporting the issues

Years ago I was a Girl Scout Leader and our troop took on the project of checking out the accessibility of sidewalk curbs, and more in a nearby town. We were amazed at how difficult so many things were for those in wheelchairs or using walkers or canes. We sent our findings to the town council and some improvements were made.

I have set a new mission for myself and will report non-compliance to the Americans With Disabilities Act to encourage inspections and improvements to allow independence for those of us who have physical issues.

There is still so much to be done to assure that no one ever feels less than capable to the best of their ability.

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